4 Dec – Cotton harvest is underway in Benin. The truck in the middle is broken down. I thought the one on the right was also stuck, but no, it was just squeezing past.
27 Oct – After a 6 month delay, Clara is back in the office!

Dear Friends,

Praise God that Clara, our Field Director, was able to return to Benin and our office by late October. I didn’t give her long to settle in before she was pulled into meetings and many a long conversation! Whilst we have kept in regular touch throughout the year, I have a whole new level of appreciation for face to face contact and the strengths each of us bring to our leadership team. Her return has also allowed me to take some time off over December. It’s difficult to travel far with COVID-19 restrictions but I’m still looking forward to a change in routine and some rest. I hope to spend a week at the TWR lake and cottage (20 mins up the road from Parakou) in the lead up to Christmas.

COVID-19 Update
Despite numbers still creeping up, we are thankful that the impact of COVID-19 remains relatively low in our region. At the time of writing, 3,090 cases have been recorded in Benin and 3,182 in Togo. It’s hard to know why, or to what extent these numbers reflect poor testing. But most people have just got on with life in Parakou (some wear masks, others don’t), already somewhat conditioned to living alongside deadly diseases and stressed healthcare systems. Time will tell, even if we do remain a little jumpy when people mention local cases (or symptoms) and wary of how easily things could change.

Our Hope for Life project shared a sad story recently about an HIV patient forced into isolation for 21 days without access to their antiretroviral medication. He lost 6kg and was never able to recover from the medical implications. Given the vulnerability of many patients they have been particularly concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 and possible disruption to their supply of antiretroviral drugs (so far mostly okay).

6 Nov – The diploma class (1st and 2nd years) at Sinendé Bible Institute.
25 Nov – Annual team photo at our Spiritual Life Conference. (5) 26 Nov – Saying goodbye to Dodi after 43 years of service in Benin (Yom Bible translator).

UEEB Sinendé Bible Institute

Over the last few months, I’ve continued to be quite involved in the administration of the UEEB Bible Institute in Sinendé which offers both a diploma and bachelor of theology in French. However, towards the end of November we reached a milestone, successfully changing the structure of our project and passing control of the financial reporting back to the school. We’ve been working with the UEEB on improving and handing over this process for more than three years. Pray that this change will serve the UEEB community and their partners well, and for the school’s new part-time accountant (Paul) as he provides oversight. I’m a little nervous as I move from being directly involved each month to simply cheering from the sidelines, but it is a positive and encouraging step. I’ve gained valuable insight and built stronger relationships from being so closely involved. From my perspective, there is still much that could be done to help strengthen the administrative capacity of our local partners – from computer skills and software to the process of budgeting or putting more effective systems in place to run projects or institutions.

There are now 21 students in the new bachelor of theology program at Sinendé (14 second year, 7 first year). However, there is still a huge need for more trained workers within the UEEB as they have just 395 pastors to support 1038 churches. We have spent a lot of time this year thinking through how we might support the development of more church leaders. For many years we have provided scholarships for theological education and helped to fund or run Bible Schools. However, along with the UEEB, we would also like to see more informal training structures in place such as evening courses for lay leaders or seminars for youth workers. We have lots of ideas and see great potential for solid partnerships, but without someone on our team to lead this ministry, it is hard for us to be more involved. Please pray for such a person!

26 Nov – Saying goodbye to Dodi after 43 years of service in Benin (Yom Bible translator).
30 Nov – A special colleague: Sara has been a great help this year dealing with a number of maintenance jobs. This time a leaking toilet (cracked cistern) on the north station.

PRAISE & PRAYER

Give thanks for Clara’s return and that I have been able to take some time off over December. Pray that I can switch off and for good rest and renewal.

Praise God for a generous gift from an overseas foundation towards translation and literacy work in Benin. This will help to cover the printing of the Monkolé Bible next year (the typesetting is still on track!) and a reprint of the Fulani NT. Pray that God will raise up key local personnel to be involved and engaged in promoting the use of media and translated materials.

Pray for the students at the UEEB Bible School in Sinendé as they live in community (with 122 staff, students and families on one site) and dig deeper into God’s word. Pray that their studies will shape and transform them to be more like Christ.

Pray that we will be open and obedient to God’s leading as we head into a new year and look to set priorities and realistic expectations. Pray for Lee as he takes over as our Field Director (returning in Jan) and for Clara as she officially retires and returns to Canada in March.